A VEHICLE for America. That is my opinion of the fourth generation Lexus RX450h Sport. Why? It’s the type of SUV (sports utility vehicle) the Americans like, ultra luxurious inside, large and its hybrid credentials help the driver feel that they are no depleting the earth’s resources, too much anyway.
Its predecessors have been extremely popular in the States, which means that this one will go down extremely well, too. It is easy to imagine it cruising the large roads over there and being very much at home. The poor British motorist can but dream of large traffic free roads or embark on their journeys during incredibly anti-social hours.
This RX is certainly a striking vehicle with an expensive unique design. I am unsure of the massive black grille at the front but it is certainly striking and on opening the door of the large sonic white SUV there really is a surprise. A red interior. That feels American too. The first time you see it it very nearly takes your breath away. It’s quite dark inside until of course the electrically operated pan roof cover retracts revealing a large glass roof, the front part of which tilts and slides. And it’s supremely comfortable too. Few cars come equipped with heated and cooled front leather seats but they’re in the Lexus. Usually on a hot summer’s day leather is sticky but that’s certainly not the case in the RX450h.
And as you first acquaint yourself with it time is required to adjust to the new surroundings. It’s not just a matter of jumping in and driving off. But it doesn’t take long to understand where all the controls are located.
We travel to London to visit Caroline’s uncle and the automatic gearbox makes light work of the motorway cruise allowing the driver a leisurely experience. However, if more engaging driving is required then there are paddle-shifts either side of the steering wheel and the gearbox can be driven as a manual. It makes swift progress and is a more than capable over-taker.
The sat nav is one of the more complicated on the market to operate we find. On our return journey, once we finally fathom how to use it it proceeds to take us an hour and a half from St John’s Wood to get out of the capital seemingly taking us round in circles. For some reason it wants to take us to the A3 despite us requesting the M25. Although it’s a Sunday the traffic is horrendous and Londoners are unfamiliar with patience. Pedestrians walk out in front of you, cyclists nudge past, vehicles jostle for position from your left and right. But it is nice to know that approximately up to 50 km/h the RX travels on electric power as long as the driver’s right foot is fairly light. The moment you push a little too heavily the 3.5-litre V6 24-valve petrol engine kicks in. The whole experience is stressful, to say the least. The only consolation is that the sheer size of the RX keeps other irate motorists in their place. It quickly becomes clear why there are so many 4x4s around the capital.
Uncle Harry, who is really suffering with his legs, finds the height of the RX user-friendly for him to get onto the front passenger seat. It’s large enough for him to swing himself round – and he’s a large man – and there is ample room for his feet.
There is no denying that the Lexus does feel a slightly cumbersome vehicle when reversing but the camera – the view from which appears on the central control panel – helps.
The intelligent cruise control, which automatically brakes and accelerates, while easy to use, does not react quickly enough for my liking. While in the outside lane of the motorway it hangs too far back from the vehicle in front, allowing for other motorists to easily undertake. In frustration the cruise control is switched off and no undertaking takes place again!
The power folding wing mirrors give the driver peace of mind that they are less likely to get bashed when parking on busy London streets.
Facts at a glance
Model tested: Lexus RX450h F Sport Pan Roof HUD
OTR price: €92,000
0-60mph (97Km/h): 7.7secs
Top speed: 200km/h
Engine power: 230 CV
Electric motor power: 313 CV
Economy: 5.2L / 100km
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